Make allowance for anxiety activators

The news came to the maintenance crew as a bombshell. It was definitely scheduled. A date had been set. Some workers clustered in groups to gripe and grouse. Others hit the phones to call their spouses or sound out employment opportunities.
By Raymond Dreyfack July 1, 1999

The news came to the maintenance crew as a bombshell. It was definitely scheduled. A date had been set. Some workers clustered in groups to gripe and grouse. Others hit the phones to call their spouses or sound out employment opportunities. Most simply returned to their jobs looking worried.

Little wonder. Employees had been speculating for months about the rumor that XYZ (name disguised) was planning to take over the company. The raider had a reputation for acquiring plants, shutting down unprofitable units, and spinning off other parts for whatever bucks it could get out of it and the workforce be damned.

Maintenance Foreman Tony Russo did his best to reassure the crew. “This is a strong healthy operation. The takeover could even be to your advantage. No point in crossing a bridge until you come to it.”

Workers listened to him, but not many faces registered belief. Suddenly Russo spied Electrician Grade I Al Haber heading for the locker room. Haber had been working on a high priority job that was behind schedule.

“Where do you think you’re going?” Russo called out.

Haber didn’t reply. Within minutes, he was gone for the day. He didn’t even punch out.

Russo was livid. “He’s gonna get the book for that,” he muttered. He filled out a pink slip, suspending Haber for a week for violation of a company rule and insubordination.

Haber returned to work the next day and apologized, but Russo would hear none of it. “We’re in a worse hole than ever because you walked out on that job. The suspension stands.”

Question: Is Haber’s suspension warranted?

Delman’s decision: “Change the suspension to a reprimand,” Plant Engineer Ben Delman instructed Russo. “From what I know of Haber, his behavior was uncharacteristic and clearly motivated by the announcement. It’s only natural for employees to be upset by news that could jeopardize their security. As any psychiatrist could confirm, our built-in mechanism has ways of dealing with strains we find difficult to tolerate. Some seem to cope well with pressures and anxieties; others seem to go off the deep end momentarily.

“Such response is normal and healthy. If we didn’t act as we see fit we’d be apt to explode. In your place I wouldn’t make a big deal of Haber’s response.”